Young journalist Hitesh Chavda narrates from his experience how targets were given to lower level government officials in order to achieve huge participation in the Run for Unity, organize by the Gujarat chief minister on December 15 to propagate his allegiance towards Sardar Patel:
It was a Sunday morning, December 15. Villagers had gathered near the Gram Panchayat office. On a holiday I generally avoid to be out of my home, situated in Moholel village near Nadiad town in Kheda district of Gujarat. But this Sunday was different. I decided to go and stand in front of the Gram Panchayat office. I noticed that the local revenue officer, talati of my village, was looking stressful. He was worried how he would manage the vehicles to transport the poor beneficiaries to the spot where the Run for Unity – a marathon organized by Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi in the memory of Sardar Patel, whose death anniversary fell on that day – was being organized.
A major aim of the Run for Unity was also to propagate for the Statue of Unity, planned by Modi as the biggest statue in the world in the midst of the Narmada river. However, my observation was that it was basically a Run for Garibi – Run for Garibi because below poverty line (BPL) cardholders were being carried in a big luggage vehicles for the Run for Unity. They were mostly farm labourers. They were being gathered to fulfill the target offered to officials to gather people for the event.
School children – who had gone to live on their farm house because it was a holiday – were also called in on early in the morning at six to reach the school. They were called so early for the Run for Unity despite the fact that it was a cold winter morning. However, the school authorities wanted to achieve their target, given to them by the district education officer.
Women – whom the Gujarat chief minister often calls his “sisters”, assuring them that he would take care of their problems – were similarly being gathered for the Run for Unity. Sakhi mandal women were called, and so were anganwadis workers. All of them had the target of bringing with them at least five women each as their “target” for the Run for Unity. Then there were asha workers, who were asked to mobilize the neighbouring women to join the Run for Unity. They were told that they would be given “certificate” for what the good work they would do. Nobody knows what use this certificate would.
A day before the Run for Unity was organized, I met a close friend, who has been working for more than five years at the state government’s health department in Dahod. He works on fixed salary, on contract, and earns half of what he is actually entitled to. He informed me that the Run for Unity was being organized only for the poor and the needy, because the BPL persons thought this would help them gather some benefit under some government scheme or other. Persons from well-to-do background were not interested in the Run for Unity, he added.
Among others who were asked to “help” the Run for Unity were home guard jawans, who are mostly used by the police to manage traffic on roads. These jawans were told not to disturb the vans which carried people in violation of traffic rules – provided of course these vans carried those seeking to participate in the Run for Unity. The State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) jawans, who recently came back from election duty in four states, were also taken to the spot where the Run for Unity was organized. However, they complained, they did not get any vehicles to return.
A friend, Manish Parmar, who is working under a government scheme at the municipality in Nadiad town, told me, “A computer operator was asked to list the name colleges and schools which had ensured that they had brought children to the Run for Unity.” This friend complained to me, “You are a journalist, and you can understand all the scams that are going on in the government. I have more degrees than minister Ramanlal Vora. Yet, Vora does not believe in raising my salary, which is just Rs 4,000 per month. The minister is Dalit only to win his assembly seat and play vote-bank politics. He has nothing to do with Dalit unity.”